TFN Artists Of The Week is one of our favorite features and probably is the one which gets the most attention. In 2020, we featured 125 artists that deserved your ear. We now have reviewed our selection and picked out our Top 25 of those artists just to make sure you didn’t miss them!
Honestly, we recommend every artist we feature here as making these choices is never easy with so much quality music out there. It also should be noted that if an artist made the Blazing Top 50 coming on Friday they were not eligible for this list. The biggest part about this list is to please Discover, Support, & Share – that is one true way that artists you like can continue to bring you their art!
Nick Kizirnis has been a long time staple of the Dayton, Ohio music scene and he released a full length titled The Distance back in January on Atom Records. The album highlights his writing talents as his sophisticated and complex arrangements just materialize out of your speakers. Nick recruited the talents of Kate Wakefield, from the band Lung, to intricately guide his compositions. It was a winning decision, as her voice melts right along with the floating western surf of Kizirnis’ guitar work and the top-notch supporting musicianship of Crazy Joe Tritschler, Patrick Himes (Bribing Senators, Flyaway Minion), Tod Weidner (Shrug, Motel Beds) and drummer Mark Patterson (Son Volt). The Distance is a timeless record that is sonically flawless.
Artists With Similar Fire: Hope Sandoval / Neko Case / Opal
Any indie band that releases their music on cassette as its main format instantly snags our attention. I totally understand the economical advantage to this but to TFN a cassette release says #indie, #hardworking, #dedicatedtostyle and #nobullshit. Austin’s Holiday Music gives you all of this on their debut Certified Ailments which was released in February via Super Wimpy Punch. Holiday Music have an almost Strokes delivery that has just the right amount of distortion and a lo-fi garage quality to them which will quickly hook you ear.
Artists With Similar Fire: Wavves / Fugazi / The Strokes
Person is the debut from P.E., a band born of the city’s art-punk underground as it is a combination of three past members of the disbanded Pill and the duo Eaters. The group is dedicated to freaky experimentation and if you are looking for an album to push your ear in all different directions, Person is that album. Singer Veronica Torres has a Karen O meets Kim Gordon tone which helps narrate this journey. Clearly, Person has a track listing but the album has many free form moments as songs contain both beats and sax to give it an electro-jazz swirl. P.E. is an easy band to overlook at first listen. I encourage you to stick with this album and let it sink in as “Machine Machine” and “Pink Shiver” are killer! The album was released in March on Wharf Cat Records.
Artists With Similar Fire: Young Marble Giants / Half Japanese / Sonic Youth
Here is some Fire Note trivia for you. Back in early 2006, Filter promotions contacted us about mailing some promo CDs for several bands they were working. This was big news for us because they were our first legitimate contact that recognized TFN as a new music source. One of those first CDs was A Shoreline Dream’s debut record, Avoiding The Consequences. Seems like yesterday but like TFN, A Shoreline Dream continues and they released a new album, Melting, back in August via their own label, Latenight Weeknight. A Shoreline Dream’s progressive shoegaze continues to evolve on this 10 song, 40 minute record. Now 14 year veterans on the scene, Melting finds the group pushing their own boundaries in the creation of their lush soundscapes that are perfect and yet unsettling in this current world climate that we all are trying to navigate.
Artists With Similar Fire: Dead Can Dance / Slowdive / Ride
Outtacontroller’s Sure Thing is a solid slice of Canadian pop punk and power pop that goes for big rock anthems with every tune. The album is the groups first record in five years and first for Alien Snatch! Records. Its ten snappy tracks represents a good mix of Ramones meets Cheap Trick sprinkled with the fun of classic Canadian punksters Chixdiggit! What is great about Sure Thing is that Outtacontroller does not mess with the formula that made them popular on P. Trash Records as the band keeps things fairly simple and delivers every song with spunk and eagerness. It really is an album that you didn’t know you wanted to rock out to until you push play!
Artists With Similar Fire: Cheap Trick / Bracket / Chixdiggit!
“Nobody has riffs anymore,” says founding member Jacob Duarte when asked about his approach on 12th House Rock, Narrow Head’s new LP for Run for Cover that was released in August. “That’s the kind of band we are and to me, that’s just how you write songs. Drums, bass, guitar, vocals. Nothing else. There are no other instruments on the record.” The Houston-based band’s record is a full sonic blast of 90’s alternative and hard rock with a fresh 2020 delivery. Massive waves of riffs drench this album as the band can instantly dip into a shoegaze mode before snapping right back into a ripping rock assault.
Artists With Similar Fire: Hum / Sunny Day Real Estate / Failure
The Dragoons hometown of Melbourne may have had you immediately thinking they were another rock n roll band from Down Under but you thought wrong! Dragoons are much more about experimentation and art within their rock this time out. Horrorscope was for sure their most adventurous release yet as it runs 22 minutes and the record is packed full of interesting instrumentation. From killer organ to fancy brass accompaniments, Dragoons tightly package their jazz and rock into a big experience. I would also say at times this band is vocally like Parquet Courts but since Horroscope is mostly instrumental the band counts on tight rhythm sections, and post-punk jazz to give the album a full life. If you look into their catalog, Dragoons have some other great releases and they all have a different flavor. Horrorscope was released back in February via Tiny Town Records.
Artists With Similar Fire: Parquet Courts / Possible Humans / CLAMM
Wallplant is a solo project from Chicago’s Donny Walsh, a Chicago musician that has is well known in the area for his other groups like Stuck, Krozer, and Surveillance. Walsh said himself that Nothing For Sure was his most cohesive solo release to date and I will say it is some fine post-punk. It is slightly disjointed in parts as the record finds its guitars, bass, keyboards and drums all weaving in and out of each other but Walsh’s vocals are the glue that holds it all together. The record was released in June via local label Friendly Otter, and was recorded by Alex Watson (who also plays drums) and mastered by his Stuck bandmate Greg Obis.
Artists With Similar Fire: Stuck / Black Midi / SUPER-X
Freedom Is Love is the debut album from Kansas City’s newest soul collective, The Freedom Affair. The album explores themes of love, heartache, empowerment, and togetherness through a varying landscape of hard-hitting funk, luscious soul, and everything in between. The Freedom Affair is a unique group featuring 3 powerhouse female vocalists in front of a dynamic 6-piece band. On Freedom Is Love, each of the vocalists get their time to shine individually, but when all three of them come together in unison and harmony, the songs take off. The Freedom Affair can also delivery a message that will cause reflection as one listen to “Don’t Shoot” will make you sit down and pause. The album was recorded and produced by Chris Hazelton, utilizing the best of vintage and new recording technologies to create an authentic experience. This is a great all around soul record that is timeless and you might recognize “Rise Up” from the new Apple Watch Series 6 commercial. Freedom Is Love was released via Sunflower Soul Records (and distributed via Colemine Records).
Artists With Similar Fire: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings / Orgone / The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble
Dayton, Ohio-based “spooky punk” band, Houseghost, released their excellent self-titled debut on October 30th via Rad Girlfriend Records. They are fronted by brother and sister Nick and Kayla Hamby which offer up the perfect back n forth vocals as their tunes lyrically skew towards the haunted side of the world. With a strong punk backbone, you won’t find Houseghost taking their foot off the gas as the group blends their aggression with some killer hooks and harmonies that sink these 13 tracks into your skull.
Artists With Similar Fire: Martha / Sleater-Kinney / The Muffs
Comprising of members from Dark/Light, Piss Test and other punk/post-punk outfits, you just know that Era Bleak are going to rock you out of your headphones. Right from the opening track this debut is on fire and never slows down for a second. Fast guitar strums and a 100mph rhythm section is the straightforward approach Era Bleak takes here and if you were looking for a call to action out of Portland – this record could be the soundtrack. Their self-titled debut was released in August via Dirt Cult Records.
The WRS are a power psych rock trio from Belgium and they come straight at you on their self-titled debut studio record with all their instruments blazing that includes big riffs, pulsating bass and an intense backbone with the drums. and lightning bass. The opening track “Magic Powder” is an incredible introduction as it just takes off like a jet engine at the 2 minute mark with a memorable and loud guitar riff. This energy continues throughout the album as The WRS have a punk garage rock under-layer that continues to break out of its overall psych rock chains for a fantastic listen! The album was released in August on Rockerill Records.
Artists With Similar Fire: Karkara / Osees / Frankie And The Witch Fingers
Cymbals Eat Guitars had four great indie rock albums in their existence from 2009-2016. More than a decade later, founder and lead singer Joseph D’Agostino released his fifth full-length album, and his first outside Cymbals Eat Guitars, as Empty Country. His voice is instantly recognizable and it feels like friend has just returned on these 10 tracks. Although, you might expect, like I did, that Empty Country would be a completely different type set of songs – it’s not. The album has a wider range of material for sure and definitely is closer to D’Agostion but make sure you check out the catchy rocker “Ultrasound” because it will remind you why you were a fan of Cymbals Eat Guitars in the first place. His self-titled release was out in March on Get Better Records.
Artists With Similar Fire: Eric Bachman / Conor Oberst / Cymbals Eat Guitars
Chicago-based band Melkbelly released PITH in April via Wax Nine / Carpark Records. PITH was summoned from a place of mourning following the loss of a close friend. This setting makes for a slightly darker and heavier record than their 2017 album Nothing Valley. The band still brings you a focused noise indie rock that mashes all the good elements of the Breeders, Boredoms and Black Sabbath while supplying some core memorable riffs that will keep you coming back for more. Melkbelly is one of those bands that has been under the radar but PITH is a record that can capture your ear quick.
Artists With Similar Fire: The Breeders / Speedy Ortiz / Bully
Kyleen Downes released her third studio effort Come On Sit Down back in June. The album checks the boxes in the indie folk genre but don’t mistake that definition for a quiet sit by the fire experience. Kyleen offers plenty of swagger with a touch of twang while also cranking up the amps on multiple tracks. It is Kyleen’s ability to walk this roots rock line that makes Come On Sit Down infectious. The rollicking “Give Up The Ghost” is the perfect introduction to Downes rock out fire while the introspective “All My Life” highlights her quality songwriting and likable voice. Come On Sit Down is just one of those records we hope surprises you after you check out a few tracks!
Artists With Similar Fire: Erika Wennerstrom / Lydia Loveless / Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
Nebraska songwriter David Nance returned to Trouble In Mind with his fifth (proper) studio album Staunch Honey. This album finds Nance returning to the home-recorded magic of his early albums as Staunch Honey was recorded entirely to tape by Nance himself at his Omaha home with the occasional assistance from his longtime live bandmates Jim Schroeder & Kevin Donohue. Staunch Honey is the culmination of two years of hard work – Nance worked and reworked the album three times over, recording & rerecording songs until they sounded just so. What I liked about the album is how raw the rock n roll is and it just oozes grit, sweat, and rhythm. This is an album that reminds me of how much I miss live club shows and at the same time thank the heavens David Nance can bring that vibe right into my living room! Staunch Honey came out in November via Trouble In Mind Records.
Artists With Similar Fire: Mike Krol / Purple Mountains / Kurt Vile
Ground Aswim is the third album from Sinai Vessel — the band turned solo project of 27-year-old Caleb Cordes. The sound of Sinai Vessel has always evolved alongside Cordes’s life. As the band’s sole constant creator, Cordes wrapped bright indie-rock guitar tones over his earlier releases and expanded into a modern emo roll on 2017’s Brokenlegged. With their new album, Ground Aswim, was recorded live, with some of its tracks left completely free of overdubs. Cordes’ voice has softened, as he delivers the most emotionally cathartic songs of his career.
Artists With Similar Fire: Stove / Pinegrove / Hovvdy
If you were looking for one of the cooler sonic album experiences in 2020, TFN presented to you Mosses. Lead by multi-instrumentalist/composer Ryan Jewel, T.V. Sun offers a wide variety of instruments that includes guitars, a gong, ring modulator synth, violin, flute, toms, banjo dulcimer, sitar, vibraphone, oscillator, different basses and of course the kitchen sink. All of these instruments and more are used by Jewel and the other band members throughout this space warp of ten tracks. The vocals are sparse but effect as they also become one more voice of Mosses during the swirling journey of complex arrangements. You would think with so much going on T.V. Sun might go too far down a hole but I will tell you the record will have your ear from beginning to end as each track fits together like a sophisticated puzzle. The album was released in March via Anyway Records.
Artists With Similar Fire: Six Organs of Admittance / Can / Modern Lovers
It is always good when a band is able to exactly describe the sound they actually are producing. Landowner is one of those groups as they are a self-described “geometric” punk group that works to deliver its music as abrasive as a mean-sounding hardcore band, but with tones that are hyper clean. That description is spot on as their third record, Consultant, is a thriving slice of post punk that will keep you on the edge. This edge is also driven by the lyrical content as Landowner call out issues as they see them and put them front and center in song. The strength of Landowner is that the band never pushes their sound too fast. Even on shorter tracks you can hear the development of the song and every spastic guitar riff sounds importantly placed. Consultant arrived in September on Born Yesterday Records.
Artists With Similar Fire: Mission Of Burma / Fugazi / Parquet Courts
Bayocean was a community in Tillamook County, Oregon and is sometimes known as “the town that fell into the sea.” It was a planned resort community founded in 1906 on Tillamook Spit, a small stretch of land that forms one wall of Tillamook Bay. The town had many issues but coastal erosion was a big part of its ultimate downfall. Do you want to hear more about Bayocean’s story? No? Well, you are going to learn about it after listening to Rectangle Creep’s great album Bayocean. The trio tell the story of the lost city over the record’s 22 tracks with a catchy mix of short form indie rock that keeps most tracks run times under 2 minutes. I know the description of this record seems far out but Rectangle Creep offer up honest rock n roll here that I guarantee our readers will dig. Bayocean was released in June via Joseph Airport Records and was pay-what-you-want for digital with the band donating all their proceeds to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Artists With Similar Fire: Salad Boys / Guided By Voices / Honey Radar
The Goodbye Party is the project of Philadelphia-based musician Michael Cantor and his new record, Beautiful Motors, was released in October via Double Double Whammy Records. Beautiful Motors is a culmination of Cantor’s previous releases and showcases his growth as a songwriter. Written between 2016 and 2018, Beautiful Motors definitely leans more towards an indie rock direction than Cantor’s earlier releases which is raw, honest and catchy. The album is slightly emo-tinged and at times maybe even has some Americana influences. Recorded with Kyle Gilbride of Swearin’ at Wherever Audio, Beautiful Motors also features a solid bunch of Philadelphia musicians including Gilbride, Sam Cook-Parrott (Radiator Hospital), Maryn Jones (Yowler), Joey Doubek (Pinkwash, Speedy Ortiz), Emi Knight (Strawberry Runners), and pedal steel guitarist Zena Kay.
Artists With Similar Fire: Pinegrove / Alex G / BOYO
Hailing from Melbourne, Bananagun instantly connect with their classic sound that hails from the 60s and 70s with a mix of afrobeat and Fela Kuti-esque repetition. The band offers a modern and vibrant psychedelic journey that took full shape in June when their debut full length The True Story of Bananagun’ was released on Full Time Hobby Records. Building off of their 7″ release, Do Yeah, there was a good amount of hype coming into this record for Bananagun and the fresh grooves delivered a sunny roll that time warped you to their reality.
Artists With Similar Fire: Os Mutantes / Fela Kuti / King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Bloody Your Hands sophomore album, Sunday Scaries was released in August. The album is about anxiety, isolation, hope, loss, exhaustion, death and struggling with adulthood. It is heavy material that was written over a two year span that is just in your face honest. On “Checked Out” when the band joins in and hooks you with a repetitive “when will I figure this shit out,” the music grabs your ear and the message is something we have all recently thought about. Several members of Bloody Your Hands have been playing music together under various names since the mid 2000’s so the synergy is spot on as this album has a undertone of 90’s alternative rock mixed with a modern post-punk. It never takes down the amps which is all you really need to know!
Artists With Similar Fire: Archers Of Loaf / Surfer Blood / Hum
CLAMM is another band to explode out of Australia with a record that is full of forceful Stooges like rock n roll. Their full length Beseech Me is a full on post punk ripper from beginning to end and it only gets more in your face everytime you spin it. What I like about CLAMM is that even though the record is heavy and intense, singer Jack Summers is always in the driver seat calm and cool as CLAMM’s music is pointed and addresses anti-violence, materialism, mental health and the state of their modern Australia. It does not take long to find out where CLAMM stand on the issues and this passion pushes these tracks to the next level. If you are fan of IDLES, Protomartyr and METZ, Beseech Me is for you!
Artists With Similar Fire: IDLES / The Fall / METZ
The mysterious Sault returned with album number three that was announced when the whole album was played on BBC 6 Music’s Gilles Peterson’s show. The record was released in June via Forever Living Originals and was one of the most essential albums for 2020. The 18 track album delivers a powerful message as each track title nods towards revolution, expression and a celebration of black culture. The album easily put you in different mindset as Sault’s sound once again mixes R&B, funk, soul and hip-hop together. For fans of classic soul, groove and soul jazz. If we would have officially reviewed the album Sault’s Untitled (Black Is) would have landed in the Blazing Top 50 with no question.
Artists With Similar Fire: Khruangbin / ESG / Ghost Funk Orchestra